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First Fridays Event Shows Off Homestead's Revitalizing Main Street

Mention “Homestead” to Pittsburghers, and many will think either of the huge U.S. Steel complex that used to join the town to the Monongahela River or The Waterfront, the sprawling shopping complex that took its place.

Homestead First Fridays Arts and Entertainment Series: 6-10 p.m. Fri., Sept. 6, East Eighth Avenue, Homestead.

But Homestead also has a main street. And while East Eighth Avenue has seen some hard times, there are signs of new life along the corridor. Highlighting them is one goal of the Homestead First Fridays Arts and Entertainment Series, whose inaugural season continues this week.

The series was launched in May by Rivers of Steel Arts, a program of the Rivers of Steel Heritage Corp.

“We felt that First Fridays might be a good way to kind of connect with what’s happening, to increase that activity, bring new folks down to Eighth Ave that haven’t been there in a long time,” said Rivers of Steel Arts director Chris McGinnis.

Some of the activity is built around food and drink, with established spots like Blue Dust restaurant and Voodoo Brewery joined by relative newcomers like Enix Brewing Co. and Honest John’s restaurant. Some is retail-based, and some is art-themed – including Ian Brill’s “Aggregate,” a light installation adorning the side of Rivers of Steel’s own headquarters on East Eighth, the landmark Bost Building.

Homestead First Fridays echoes other local events including Unblurred, the long-running monthly gallery crawl on Penn Avenue in Bloomfield and Garfield. McGinnis said Homestead's inaugural event, in May, was “low-key,” but attendance has ticked up, to an estimated high of about 200 in July.

The Sept. 6 event will feature about two dozen venues, including pop-up art exhibits; “Fresh Air: An Eco-Futurist Art Exhibition,” a group show curated by John Engel; and Rivers of Steel Arts’ outdoor Community Plaza, featuring live music by The Munhall Community Band. Hands-on artmaking at the plaza includes a chance to create designs to be cast on the spot in aluminum, then taken home, and silk-screening with the Braddock Carnegie Library’s Neighborhood Print Shop.

Ace Axe throwing will have its mobile unit parked curbside. Enix Brewing has an upstairs bowling alley.

McGinnis said one goal of First Friday is to show off vacant properties along the corridor to potential tenants. One building on East Eighth that hosted pop-up art exhibits in early First Fridays won’t be part of September’s event because it’s since been leased, he said.

Homestead First Fridays is designed as a warm-weather event, so the season will close with the Oct. 4 crawl, McGinnis said.

Attendance is free. More information is here.

Bill is a long-time Pittsburgh-based journalist specializing in the arts and the environment. Previous to working at WESA, he spent 21 years at the weekly Pittsburgh City Paper, the last 14 as Arts & Entertainment editor. He is a graduate of Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism and in 30-plus years as a journalist has freelanced for publications including In Pittsburgh, The Nation, E: The Environmental Magazine, American Theatre, and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Bill has earned numerous Golden Quill awards from the Press Club of Western Pennsylvania. He lives in the neighborhood of Manchester, and he once milked a goat. Email: